Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Next Stop- Unemployment

I am sitting at my desk at BVG, during my last week here. This job has been good to me. Sure, I’ve had plenty of reasons to complain- we haven’t always been able to convince the executives that ideas we love were as great as we thought they were. The purpose of the Think Tank has changed a few times since I started. We were often forced to make changes to concepts that we passionately disagreed with. As I wrote in a recent post, my boss was unceremoniously fired in our last full week in the Tank. We often sat in the room, frustrated by the way the company lumbered ever-so-slowly towards making any decisions, and you know, making some freaking video games. There were certainly personality clashes in the Tank once in awhile, and a co-worker even had to be let go after failing to produce much of anything after a whole month.

But those are the pitfalls of working for any big company. These are the things that happen when creativity is mixed with commerce. Such opposing forces will inevitably clash, and the executives will always have the final say, much to the frustration of the creatives.

But overall, this job totally kicked ass.

I was paid to write. I was a professional writer. No matter what happens in the future- if my wildest dreams come true, and I get to write screenplays that I love and get to see made (less likely,) or I just end up failing miserably, sitting unemployed in my underwear, playing video games until I finally give up on trying to break in as a writer and go back to school as a business major (hopefully not any more likely than the first scenario,) one thing about this job will always be true: this will always and forever be the first time I was employed as a writer. It was my first job after graduation, and it was a creative job. How many people get to go straight to being a creative out of college? I may end up behind a desk for a few years, but for eight months, I got to come to work every day and dream for a living.

That’s pretty cool.

I also met a few people over my time here who I hope will be in my life for years to come, both professionally and socially. I’ve clicked with a few of people here creatively, who I feel are on my same wavelength and will be fun people to collaborate with in the future. Out tenure at BVG is ending, but for these people, I hope it’s only the beginning of us being creative together.

For me, the best times at BVG were just hanging out with a diverse group of talented and creative people. I won’t forget the endless hours spent yelling about “Snakes on a Plane,” endlessly debating “Lost,” playing too many matches of “Mario Kart,” getting my ass handed to me in “Quake,” loudly debating politics, movies, video games, and music (with an audience who hasn’t heard all my opinions yet!) and just getting to know a bunch of really cool people. The very best part about the last eight months is that hanging out led to some of our most creative ideas. When a group of us would sit around in “The War Room,” which had all four walls were made up of whiteboards (and always smelled of erasable marker, probably getting us all a little bit giddy,) where we’d sit around and rap about ideas and stories and characters and game play for our many ideas. Whether these ideas all got a green-light is irrelevant- the process we went through to come up with those ideas was worth it, and I’m proud of a lot of what we came up with. We came up with worlds to play in, had a blast doing it, and got paid.

I have just about an hour left today, and then tomorrow is our big send off. The whole Think Tank is going out to lunch together, and my probably only very temporarily unemployed boss will be joining us to say goodbye. Everyone is wrapping their affairs here, putting up photos of themselves and personal quotes so we can all leave our permanent mark on the room. I am ready to go, but that’s not to say I won’t miss this place. I spent eight fun, creative, frustrating, upsetting, exhausting, and never boring months here, and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for the world (okay, that’s probably just the nostalgia talking- there are a few moments I could live without- but they make the experience “well rounded,” don’t they?)

So in a couple days I face down unemployment, and I face it fearlessly (well, not exactly.) I am going to take this time between jobs to rededicate myself to a few projects- I’ve started some spec TV scripts that I want to finish up, and I need to finish editing the film I shot just about a year ago. If all goes well, it’s going to be a really productive month that will refresh me and get me ready for whatever my next job is. Maybe one of these projects will get me an agent. If not, I’ll move to the next job and just keep trying to get wherever it is I’m going to end up.

I don’t know what comes next, but BVG was a great start.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Summer Movie Olympics, Part 2: X-treme Letdown

I have been slacking in my Summer Movie Olympics Quest, having only posted one review going into the fourth weekend of the blockbuster season. But I have a few excuses- the first of them being that I don’t care to see “The Da Vinci Code.” I could care less about the entire affair. It looks boring, I hate Ron Howard, I already know the movie’s big twist, and I just don’t have any desire to be a part of the movie’s insane success. I will say I find it positive that something so disparaging to organized religion could do so well in our current political climate, but I’m not willing to sit through almost three hours of a fat Tom Hanks running around in libraries to support it. As for “Poseidon;” oh, I’ll get to it. Don’t you worry, I’ll get to it. It’s a movie about an upside down ship with Richard Dreyfuss playing a gay architect. How could I miss that?

If any of the couple readers of this blog doubt my commitment to summer movies, let me just say this- I will be unemployed at the beginning of June. Right when the big dirge of over bloated action movies and crappy, star-driven comedies really starts to come out. And my apartment gets really hot on summer afternoons. So these summer movie updates will begin to increase very quickly indeed.

So here I am, back in the summer movie game. Tonight, I ventured out to Hollywood to see “X-Men: The Last Stand” at Grauman’s Chinese, probably the most famous movie theatre in the world. I saw “X2” there a couple years ago and had a great experience, and hoped I could replicate that tonight, despite some very bad early buzz on the movie. Before I go into brutal detail about “The Last Stand,” I want to say I did have one wonderful experience at The Chinese tonight. I got to see the trailer for a little movie that might be the hit of the summer. No, not “Pirates 2” or “Superman Returns.” I’m not talking about “Cars” or “Click.”

It started with a black screen with text slowly fading in and out, telling us that there are a lot of movies coming out this summer with super heroes, animated adventures, swashbuckling pirates, and big comedy stars.

“But only one of them has…

It was a delirious moment. The crowd erupted in cheers, and I yelled out in delight.

Too bad it was the highlight of the evening.

“X-Men: The Last Stand” is a huge disappointment. Bryan Singer’s first “X-Men” film was very good and very clever, despite severe budget limitations. When he got to make
“X2” with a much bigger budget, it showed. “X2” kicked ass, and ended on a perfect note for long time fans of the characters, with Jean Grey sacrificing herself to save her friends- with a final shot implying that she might not really be dead.

That she would rise again as Phoenix.

Now, I am going to get a little geeky on y’all, but you’ve probably come to expect that. “The Dark Phoenix Saga” is one of the best storylines in the history of comics. To make a long story short, in the comic version, Jean dies and is reborn as the most powerful being in the universe. She starts off working for good, working with her friends who thought they had lost her for good. But the power proves too much for her, and she loses control, giving over to The Dark Phoenix.

How bad does it get once Jean goes to the Dark Side? She destroys a planet. An entire planet. She wipes out an entire race, an entire history, a whole civilization. And she does it with her mind.

The X-Men have to make the worst decision of their lives- they have to destroy their friend. But when they go after her, they get their asses handed to them. Only Cyclops, the love of her life, is able to bring her back from the brink of slaughtering her friends. And when she does come around, she realizes she has only one choice.

She destroys herself.

My two paragraph description of the saga doesn’t do it any sort of justice. The story is really powerful, exciting stuff. There is a lot of anguish throughout this thing. The people who once loved this person are forced to destroy her. It’s great comic book literature, and could have made a hell of a movie.

It could have.

But the Dark Phoenix stuff is totally and utterly blown by the filmmakers of “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Bryan Singer jumped ship to make “Superman Returns” (which looks pretty magnificent from the trailers so far.) Despite losing the driving creative force that made the first two “X-Men” movies so good and so successful, Fox decided to press ahead.

By hiring one of the biggest hacks in Hollywood to fill Singer’s shoes. Brett Raetner is probably not a bad guy in real life. I can’t say what type of human being the guy is, but damn can he take the life out of a franchise. His “Red Dragon” turned Hannibal Lecter into a silly and tame joke, defanging one of the most frightening monsters in the history of cinema. And now he and his writers have done the same for almost every character in the X-Men franchise. He’s turned Wolverine, the crazy, berzerker badass into a silly one-liner machine. What happened to Logan’s continuing struggle with his past that was a big part of the first two movies? The whole subplot is just dropped.

Worse yet is his treatment of Charles Xavier, or Profesor X. The spiritual leader of the X-Men, the man whose wisdom and guidance even Magneto respected, is turned into nothing more than a huge asshole in this movie. In a goofily expository scene, he tells Wolverine that when he first met Jean, he realized her powers were so great that he created mental blocks in her mind to suppress her powers. That move was dick enough, but when Wolverine calls him on it, the supposedly sage and compassionate leader just says “I don’t have to justify myself Logan, least of all to you.” Well why the hell not, you pompous ass? I know this sounds ridiculous and nitpicky and geeky, but I don’t care. Profesor X would never say that. It was a lazy and ridiculous out for the writers to take, and it shits on years and years of character development throughout the comic books.

I am going to go into a couple SPOILERS in this paragraph, just to finish my point on the shitty job they did with handling Xavier in this movie. When Jean wakes up and almost kills Wolveine, Profesor X just looks at him and asks “what have you done?” Well, he didn’t do anything, you bald creep. Her mental dams burst, now you’re blaming Wolverine? But worse yet, when Xavier confronts her- she kills him! Profesor X is just killed brutally, with no dramatic build to it. This is not an inevitable tragic moment- it just happens, and then the movie just kind of moves on after a short funeral scene. Not to mention that Jean Grey kills Cyclops in the first ten minutes of the movie- the love of her life. I’m no fan of James Marsden’s portrayal of Cyclops, but his relationship to Jean is one of the most powerful parts of the Phoenix story- and the movie kills him off in the first act. I guess somebody felt that Wolverine was more compelling, so they should make him be the one to go after Jean and confront her at the end. To tell the truth, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is more compelling than Marsden any day, but there would have been real drama if the Cyclops/ Jean Grey/ Wolverine love triangle had remained intact until the end. Major characters are just tossed aside for no reason other than shock value.

The other plot of the movie- and there really are just two plots thrown together with no sense of grace- is the “Mutant Cure” created from the DNA of a young mutant whose power is to sap other mutants of their own power. The cure storyline is interesting and could have been compelling, but isn’t given enough screentime to develop. There are just too many characters, too many subplots, too much exposition, too many inspiring speeches to pack into such a short movie. There is no grace to the storytelling- each successive scene just feels like it randomly appeared, not as if it was a logical extension from the scene previous. The movie was rushed, and it feels that way.

The whole mess ends up on Alcatraz Island, for some bizarre reason. Despite the fact that Alcatraz is a hugely popular tourist attraction, in the reality of the movie The Worthington Corporation, who creates the Mutant Cure, has labs on the island. I don’t know why they chose to put it on Alcatraz, since the characters never enter the famed prison- they run through a generic lab set that is supposedly built at the base of the prison. The only reason the filmmakers chose Alcatraz seems to be so they could show off their niftiest special effects shot, in which Magneto uses his power to lift the Golden Gate Bridge and fly it over to Alcatraz. Why Jean Grey isn’t the one who does the heavy lifting is puzzling- the filmmakers claim her power is limitless while Magneto’s isn’t- even for him, lifting a bridge seems a little extreme. And then again, why didn’t they just take a boat?

The final battle commences, and the X-Men are short a bunch of members, so we get a few new under-developed characters fighting on their side against Magneto’s army. During the whole final showdown, Jean Grey just kind of stands there, waits for the fight to end, then goes crazy herself. It’s like she knows she is part of a totally separate storyline and is just waiting for the Cure story to end so she can resume her storyline. And what does “the most powerful mutant to ever live” do? She…shoots some water in the air. So her power amounts to what happens at the Bellagio in Vegas once an hour. Storm could do that any day without breaking a sweat- but the less screen time Halle Berry gets in these movies, the better.

The movie left me annoyed and angry. It’s not any worse than most summer movies, and is probably technically better than “M:I:3.” But these are characters I have loved since I was a little kid, and the story being told is one that had a huge impact on me years ago. Seeing this epic storyline told so poorly, and seeing these characters represented so badly is much more offensive to me than most bad summer movies could ever hope to be.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lost Watch: Goodbye, Dear Hatch

I’ve had a few hours to process my thoughts on last night’s “Lost” season finale- and overall, it pretty damn good. As expected, the producers are going to leave us loyal viewers with many more questions than answers- but it wouldn’t be “Lost” if that wasn’t true.

Last night’s finale did wrap up some pressing matters. We found out what happens when the numbers run out- airplanes crash. Desmond, the previous occupant in Locke’s hatch, returned and read a long print-out that showed when he almost missed entering the numbers- which happened to be the day that Oceanic Flight 815 passed over the island. Apparently, the intense electromagnetic energy that pressing the numbers controls caused the crash that brought our group of heroes to “mystery island” in the first place. Locke, after seeing the new orientation film in “The Pearl,” is convinced that pressing the button is a useless gesture, a task created by Dharma Initiative Scientists to turn human beings into lab rats. He convinces Desmond, who is understandably bitter about losing three years of his life to pressing the damn button every 108 minutes, to finally let the clock run down. But when Desmond realizes that Locke is wrong- that the button has a purpose- Locke has gone beyond the point of no return. He smashes the computer, finally and irrecoverably breaking up with the hatch for good, and Desmond pulls out a “fail safe” key. With an intense electromagnetic storm breaking out in the hatch, Desmond turns the key- and there is a very loud noise and a very bright light. What exactly happened, we’ll have to wait until next week to find out. Is Desmond gone? Are Locke and Mr. Ecco, who were in a dual over faith in the machine, alive?

Meanwhile, Jack and crew finally meet up with the Others- or as Desmond calls them, “the hostiles.” The fake-Henry Gale shows up and is clearly not just a lowly member of the group- he orders the rest of them around, letting Michael take Walt and a boat off the island, releasing only Hurley from the group he has led into a trap and telling him to send a message to the other survivors- don’t fuck with The Others. Considering the fact that Sayid is gonna be pissed when Hurley gets back, I doubt they will follow that advice. The Others also take Jack, Kate, and Sawyer with them- who knows where, but I can only assume that their whole purpose is to force the three of them to finally resolve their far too drawn out love triangle. I can just imagine fake beard guy begging Kate to just “decide which one of them you like, it’s killing us.”

So we’re left with a big pot of uncertainty to deal with until the fall. Where are Jack, Kate, and Sawyer being taken? Are Locke, Ecco, and Desmond alive? What exactly happened when Desmond turned the key? What the hell was that giant statue that Sayid, Sun, and Jin saw when they were sailing around the island to try and get a jump on The Others? And still- who exactly are The Others, and why do they keep insisting they are “the good ones? Do they work for Dharma (I think they do, but the Dharma guy Desmond lived with in the Hatch didn’t seem to like them.) Who is running this crazy experiment? Are Michael and Walt really going to make it off the island, or were the Others lying? Who is the “him” people keep asking for? As for the puzzling last scene- how does Desmond's girfriend know to look for electromagnetic activity in her search for him- is her father involved in bed with Dharma and is he the reason Desmond ended up on the island? If so, how did she find out?

The producers did a great job of answering enough questions to keep us satisfied and bringing up enough new questions to keep us talking through the summer. With the very elaborate “Lost Experience” viral marketing game blurring the line between reality and fiction even further, there is a whole ton of mythology to keep fans not just interested, but obsessed until the third season starts.

But I must submit my own theory for what is actually happening on the island. When Sayid pointed out that the weird statue only had four toes, it gave it away from me. Cartoon characters are usually animated with only four toes on each foot and four fingers on each hand- the broken statue is Mickey. That’s right, the island is a test facility for the newest, most advanced Disney park. The Dharma initiative is the most elite Imagineering team known to man, and The Others are disgruntled former Disney employees who have gone insane. Sure, the Research and Development they are doing on the island might be a little too intense sometimes, it might crash planes, kill people, and ruin lives- but those rides are going to be so awesome when the park finally opens.

After working at Disney for eight months, I’m thinking it’s a pretty solid theory.

Blue Monday

As promised, I am going to get into my epic post about what amounted to a really, really bad Monday. After you slog through it, it will be followed soon thereafter by a lighter post about my reactions to the “Lost” season finale.

First I am going to talk about my strange day at work on Monday. I have to be somewhat vague in this part of the post, because I don’t want to talk about people by name, and I am not allowed to talk about any game concepts we’ve worked on publicly. But hopefully, dear readers, you’ll get the idea.

I came into work on Monday morning ready to see what my last full week of work at BVG would bring. I was ready to dig in at the Think Tank and put together any presentations my supervisors needed before my time was up in the middle of next week. The rest of the Think Tank Interns and I spent most of our morning just waiting for word on what we were supposed to do, as none of our supervisors came in until 11.

Then they dropped the bomb.

My boss had been fired. There was a big shake up in the production department and he was one of the victims of “restructuring” (one of those safe sounding corporate words that means people’s lives are being ruined.) He came in Monday morning and they told him he was being “let go” (another one of those phrases.) The executives who fired him told him that they were not happy with the fruits of our labor in the think tank for the last few months, and that they wanted to go in a new direction in which game play was the main focus of our new concepts. As my boss gave a humble and heartbreaking speech in front of all of the Think Tank, I felt numb, shocked. My boss did not deserve to be “let go.” He is a genuinely creative thinker who always asked for the best out of our work. There are not a lot of people in the entertainment industry who really want to nurture the creative people and just let them be creative, let them innovate, but he was one of those people.

I understand the desire of the executives to want to take the company in a new direction- it’s strange to see how slowly the gears grind in a big place like this company, which is just a small cog in the Disney machine. But it just seems unfair to blame creative people who really want to try new things for the fact that nothing is happening here. My boss supervised two very successful concepts to the greenlight stage, and those games have gotten a ton of mileage in the Disney company overall. They games have not been made for various reasons, and have been stalled for awhile. But my boss did his job and got them as far as his job would allow- is it that the execs blame him because nothing is happening in the company as a whole?

The Walt Disney Company is going through major changes right now. When Bob Iger approved the purchase of Pixar, he was not just buying the rights to their movies they release every two years- he was saving the Disney’s soul. John Lasseter and his team of creative wizards have been brought in to totally revamp all of Disney animation and Disney Imagineering. Current projects like “Meet the Robinsons” are being overhauled and improved, the lame pop culture references (the ones that have become so popular in almost every animated feature released since “Shrek,)” are being pulled out. Weak projects, like “Gnomeo and Juliet” have been given the axe and creators are being given more freedom to do what they want. Glen Keane was given the option to direct his “Rapunzel” film in 2D (he chose 3D because he’s excited by the possibilities- but it’s cool that he was given the choice,) and people seem very excited about “American Dog.” At E3, I met a guy from Disney Feature Animation who told me how ecstatic they all are working there now, and how the Pixar guys have really created a wonderful creative environment in which most of the executives who give notes begging for Jay Leno references have been swept aside. Meanwhile, ABC has built it’s way to huge profits on the shoulders of innovative shows like “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and my beloved “Lost.” ABC has also taken risks by being the first network to put their shows on ITunes, and now they are giving away episodes of some of the shows for free on ABC.Com. BVG is the company’s video game wing, which means they should be on the bleeding edge of new technologies, not falling behind the rest of the company. If BVG is to thrive, a shake up like the Pixar deal needs to happen. A John Lassetter is desperately needed here, and soon. The creatives need to be allowed to create, and the executives need to trust them. If that doesn’t happen, this company is doomed to make nothing but “Kim Possible” handheld games (not that there’s anything wrong with “Kim Possible” games. They’re fun and sell very well to a certain demographic, but it’d be nice to diversify a bit.) There are a lot of creative people at BVG who believe this company can do great things, and my boss was one of them. It would be nice to prove them right, but his dismissal is a step in the wrong direction.

I was pretty upset when I got home, but the “24” finale lifted my spirits a bit- well, except for the fact that Jack was kidnapped, but I’ve talked about that enough- and ready to go to bed early after a weird day. But while I was on the phone with my friend from the Bay Area (talking about, yes, “24,”) my girlfriend started to complain about sharp abdominal pains. It got worse over the course of the evening, and I looked up what it could be on the internet. We were worried that it was her appendix, and I convinced her we should go to the hospital to get her checked out. After a somewhat tense drive in which I sped a bit more than I should have, we pulled up to the emergency room. After a seemingly endless period of worry and agitation in the waiting room in which a repeat of “The Drew Cary Show” blared loudly from a wall mounted tv, my girlfriend’s name was finally called and we went back to the exam room…to wait some more. When the doctor finally arrived, he was very nice and quickly eased our fears. I’m not gonna go into detail on the internet, but the important thing is she didn’t need surgery and she’s going to be fine. I’m glad we went in to make sure everything was okay- I was pretty worried for a little while, but things turned out fine. I’ll say that I really don’t like hospitals (I don’t think a lot of people love them,) but the people who helped did a good job of easing our fears and making us feel comfortable while we were there.

We got home at around 2:00 AM. After a day that started with my boss getting fired and ended with me driving my girlfriend to the emergency room, I was exhausted. I decided to sleep in a bit the next day, feeling I’d definitely earned a bit of rest. Seeing somebody who I admire as much as my boss, who has had a career I’d be lucky to emulate, lose his job because of corporate concerns was tough. Coupling that with taking my girlfriend to the hospital, and the fact that my own time at BVG is ending and I have no idea what I am going to do with my life next- things are pretty damn weird right now. I’ve had to sort through a lot of stuff this week, and, as an overly introspective, overly analytical wanna- be writer, it’s made me overthink a lot of things.

Nothing is certain in this world, but that just makes it more imperative, at least to me, to try to do what I am passionate about. You only have one shot at life, one shot to make yourself happy, so I’m gonna give it as good a go as I can, try to find something that I’ll be happy doing, try to find a place where I can create things I love and where creativity is valued. For the last few months, I saw my boss struggle with figuring out what to fight for and when to give the executives the more conservative, safe approach just to appease them. But flattening things you believe, taking the life out of them just because you believe executives will “get it” that way, is not going to make for good results in the end. This whole week has just made my resolve stronger for what I want in my future. I’m going to find a place where I can aim for the stars and fight for what I believe in, and where I am respected for that. And I hope my boss, whenever he gets where he is going next, (and I don’t doubt it will be very soon, maybe even in the aforementioned, insanely creative environment being built at “Disney Animation,”) gets to do the same.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bauer Watch:January Is So Far Away

Yesterday was a pretty insane day, and I am going to write about everything that happened once I have processed it all. But before I write my heavy post, as Spielberg made “Jurassic Park” before starting in on “Schindler’s List” (and I think that’s an apt comparison,) I am going to write about last night’s two hour, action packed, “24” season finale.

Let me say this first: I think it’s awesome that Fox does the “non-stop season” thing for “24.” As an audience member, I love that I get to see Bauer do his thing every week, with no month-long wait between episodes. “Lost,” I’m thinking of you- and remembering many weeks of frustration since September. The non-stop season is great and very effective- except when the producers decide to end the season with as huge a cliff-hanger as they did this year. I HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL JANUARY TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last night, Jack took only twenty minutes to take a hijacked submarine back from the terrorists who had control of it, cancel their planned missile launch, crush the terrorist leader between his legs, and shoot his un-armed former mentor to avenge the deaths of his friends, all before the first commercial break. Then Jack made the seemingly irrational decision to go after the president himself. Yes, Jack decided it was a good idea to kidnap The President of the United States in order to get a confession out of him, without a shred of evidence in his possession. As impossible as the task sounds to mere mortal men, if Jack Bauer wants to kidnap the president, and you give him a little more than the twenty minutes it takes him to take a submarine back from terrorists, then he’ll damn well kidnap the president. By the time Jack had President Logan cornered in a helicopter, you knew it was all over for the crooked creep.

After Jack was unable to extract a confession from Logan in the few minutes he had him alone before the S.W.A.T. team caught up to him, it was clear he had another ace up his sleeve- and when the President grabbed his pen from the table where Jack had tossed it, the trap was set. When the moron took his wife aside to yell at her for making a scene at murdered President David Palmer’s funeral and admitted to his crimes again, it was a matter of mere moments before he was taken into custody. Jack Bauer took down a sitting president in the span of 24 hours- all in time to get kidnapped by the Chinese.

That’s right- Jack, after one of the most intense days out of at least five very intense days in his life, after finally being reunited with the love of his life, after taking down another terrorist threat and crumbling a conspiracy that went as high as the president’s office, is kidnapped by Chinese government, still angry over the little matter of Jack invading their embassy eighteen months previous. I guess we can give them a little credit for having the decency to wait until Jack had wrapped up the business at hand of toppling presidencies before they kidnapped him- but doesn’t Jack ever get a chance to relax? When a horribly beaten and exhausted Jack looks up at his kidnappers and begs for the sweet release of death, he really means it. This guy has had a death wish since the end of the first season.

After a fairly disjointed yet often brilliant season, I think we’ve all learned a few things as a nation, first and foremost that man-bags are now totally cool and not gay at all, because Jack Bauer carries one. I have one now myself, and it's only because Jack made it acceptable. With Jack learning new depths of sadness after almost all his close friends died and his daughter told him she didn't want him in her life, after being kidnapped right when he thought he had a chance at happieness with Audrey, after he's lost all will to live, it will be interesting to see where the producers take the adventures of broken man Jack next. With a “24” movie in the works and Kiefer signing on for at least three more years of Bauer duty, will the writers be able to keep the show sharp and exciting? Or will they resort to cheap shocks, like bringing back dead characters (is Nina Myers really gone for good or will she return as terrorist mastermind David Palmer’s lover?) Just how long can Jack and company avoid finally jumping the shark (and if Jack actually jumped over a shark, would that be a bad thing?)

For now, the waiting begins, as we won’t get a resolution to the insane cliffhanger until January. Will Day Six of “24” take place in China? Is Jack going to escape the freighter before it reaches Asia? Will he team up the Beastie Boys and free Tibet? Fans of The Bauer Power Hour have a long time to ponder these questions- and more.

Fun fact- when Jack arrives in China, it won't be his first time in Asia- he stopped over in Tokyo for "Calorie Mate" ads that only aired in Japan.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Preacher: The Series?

This rumor could be totally and completely off base, and should be taken with an enourmas grain of salt. I don’t want to get too excited about what is barley a rumor…but Aint It Cool News is reporting that the producers of “The Sopranos” are interested in developing Vertigo comic's series "Preacher" into a series for HBO. For those who don’t know, “Preacher” is one of the most rollicking, funny, violent, and ballsiest comic book series I’ve ever read. It’s the story of Jesse Custer, a Texas preacher whose soul merges with a powerful being that is part angel and part demon. If this sounds at all stodgy and boring, it’s not. This is not “Left Behind-” this is the book that fans of “Left Behind” would condemn with their crazy proclamations and judgments, telling us all this is just another example of why our culture is going to Hell.

The comic series is a wild ride in every sense of the phrase, featuring boatloads of blasphemy, drinking, fighting, swearing, and fucking, some of my favorite subjects. The comic book features a hero with the balls to take on the ultimate villain- God himself (or at least the Judeo-Christian version of God.) If the Catholic Church is offended by “The Da Vinci Code,” I can’t imagine how they will react if “Preacher” is made into a TV show. Beyond all the stuff that will get "Preacher" tons of media attention, there is a really compelling story being told, with a very clear vision of what's right and wrong- whether the authors agree with what God himself has to say or not.

I first encountered the comic book my senior year of high school. At that point, I had not read any comic books since I was a kid. The book knocked me out, and was addictive enough to draw me right back into the comics medium, and I have not stopped seeking good comics since then. This is material that would be easy to screw up, but with the creators of “The Sopranos” doing this at HBO, they’ll hopefully have the freedom to do it right.

If they end the show the way the comic book ends- well, the controversy will be pretty wild. HBO has been gutsy in the past, but this would be a whole new level of controversy even for them- they would be openly attacking organized religion and all the hypocrisy therein, and will be the target of all the usual idiots. But if they have the stones to go for it- we’ll all be in for a wild ride. Jerry Fallwell is gonna hate it a lot- and that's reason enough for me to give it a big ol' greenlight. I’m looking forward to how this whole thing develops- fingers crossed.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

9/11 The Movie: Part II

Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” trailer is out. I’m sure the blogosphere is already ablaze with opinions, especially just a few weeks after “United 93” created a storm of media coverage. But here I am, throwing my two cents in.

I had no desire to see “United 93.” It looked depressing and didn’t seem to have much of a point. I’ve read most of the reviews, which praised the film for it’s balanced view of the tragic day’s events, and it’s lack of, you know, a point of view. The filmmakers’ intent seemed admirable on paper- to present an un-judgmental account of the day’s events that even refuses to vilify the terrorists- but doesn’t an art need some sort of point of view to exist? Just recreating terrible events accurately is not enough, especially less than five years after they occurred. Just what is the reason for making the film, other than to get attention? But as disinterested as I was by “United 93,” Oliver Stone’s “World Trade Center” looks like downright offensive.

As much as I thought that it was maybe “too soon” to make “United 93,” at least that film seemed to have the decency to strip the production of any Hollywood excess. “World Trade Center,” (at least from the trailer,) looks as slick and clichéd as the worst of Hollywood’s big budget blockbusters. With a big star like Nicolas Cage at the center of the movie, the presence of celebrity is immediately distracting. I know he’s an actor and it’s his job to make us forget he is Nicolas Cage, superstar; his job is to make us believe he is the character he’s playing. But watching the trailer, everything about his performance seems self conscious and forced, from his bizarre mustache and canned New Yawk accent. When he tells a co-star “we prepared for everything, but not for this…” the moment feels so far from reality that he might as well be talking about Godzilla. Nic Cage is a very good actor who has made some very bad choices in recent years, and I hope he comes off better in the actual film than he does in the trailer.

Disappointingly, “World Trade Center” looks more like the recent mega-flop “Poseidon” than a respectful view of a very, very recent and very, very real tragedy. The shot of the shadow of the airplane flying low over New York feels like something out of “Armageddon” or “Independence Day.” The scene where Nic Cage asks whose going to follow him into the building to lead the evacuation efforts is pure Hollywood cliché. I have no doubt that the men who risked their lives and sacrificed themselves by walking into the doomed building were scared- but do we need a moment straight out of a high school football movie to dramatize their fear? I was waiting for the lone man to start clapping, followed by a slowly building round of applause from the crowd. Worse than that is the moment when Stone shows the Towers begin to break apart- one of the most horrifying moments in recent history has been turned into the “Earthquake” attraction from the Universal Studios Backlot Tour. Everything in the trailer just feels so wrong, so canned, so clichéd, so Hollywood, so false. When the movie rolls out in August, I’m sure we’ll hear plenty of press about how the movie is meant to honor the memory of the heroes who died on that day, and celebrate the courage of the men who made it out alive. They’ll try to spin it, but in the end exploitation is exploitation. Shouldn’t we treat what could be the defining moment of our times, the unimaginable tragedy that was 9/11, as something more than a sappy movie stitched together from scenes from tons of other crappy movies?

There was so much talk on that day that what was happening “looked like a movie.” Wouldn’t a good movie about that day, if there is a good movie to be made out of it, try and show the events realistically? The images of the trailer just make the events of 9/11 look even less real than they were, and pull them even further away from reality. When the images of a movie about 9/11 could be seamlessly intercut with that of a Bruckheimer movie, there is a major problem. In our crazy, postmodern, overly-mediated world, this movie looks like it will have the opposite affect of making us remember the impact of that day- it will make it less real for us. It will make it seem like fiction in our minds, and that’s a little bit dangerous. Maybe that is Stone’s secret intent with “World Trade Center-” he is the man who made “Natural Born Killers.” That shadow shot does have a billboard for “Zoolander” prominent in the frame- is Stone just trying to be accurate to a very recent period- or is he trying to say something else? If the crazy conspiracy theorist and provocateur who made “JFK,” “Platoon,” “Nixon,” and “Wall Street” is trying to do something subversive about 9/11, then he might piss off a lot of people- but at least there would be some complicated authorial intent to it. But I suspect that’s not the case- he seems to be making a straight forward, earnest reenactment of something we really don’t need reenacted- at least not yet.

Maybe Oliver Stone really believes he needed to make this movie. Maybe he feels it will help heal us all as a nation, or bring on some sort of catharsis. But watching the trailer just gives me the creeps. Artists should be able to make whatever film they please and arguments that “United 93” and “World Trade Center” should not have been made, that the trailers should be pulled from theatres, are nothing but censorship. But when people argue that is is “too soon” for 9/11 movies, there is a point worth discussing there. But when I say it may well be “too soon” for these movies, I’m not trying to ask “as an audience, are we ready to see 9/11 as a movie yet?” The real question is “are artists ready to say anything of value about this even after only five years?” The shock of the moment has honestly barley worn off in a mere five years. We’ll need more than five years to really understand what 9/11 means in the context of history- and that is why the only movies we can currently make about it are well intentioned, earnest, and pointless attempts to recreate an event that none of us have forgotten.

Lost Watch: Prelude to a Finale

I don’t think I have to give all two of my readers the usual SPOILER warning, but I did it anyway. Because I love you and don’t want “Lost” ruined for you- not that any of my speculations and blathering would make any sense if you are not caught up on the show so far.

So we’re heading straight into the season finale, and it looks like things could go very, very badly. Michael is planning on leading his friends right into a trap set by those pesky others- even though Sayid is onto him. We need more Sayid in the show- almost every issue would be resolved much faster if Sayid intervened.

But the real question is- why do the others want these four? What are they planning on doing to them? Is Michael leading them into a slaughter, or something else? Why didn’t they just take Kate, Jack, and Sawyer after Michael ran off into the jungle and they came after him? Why do they want Hurley?

Escaped other “Henry Gale” (or whatever his real name is) said that when he was caught, he was on his way to bring Locke back to them- because he was “one of the good ones.” Does that mean the four people on the list that Ms. Clue (I know, what an awesome name. When she started asking Michael questions, I wanted him to say “Professor Plumb. In The Library. With the Wrench.”) shows Michael are not the “good ones?”

Then again, “Henry” was probably lying to Locke anyway. Locke is a man whose mind has been so thoroughly fucked with that I have no idea what he’s gonna do next- well, the promo for next week did imply that he was going to let the hatch clock run down- finally. Just as “Lost” fans wanted to know what was in the Hatch all through the first season, the question we’ve wanted and dreaded the answer to is “What the fuck happens if that clock runs out and the numbers are not entered into the creepy old computer?” And shit- where did that boat come from?

So we’re promised a lot of answers next week. I’m already dreading the long summer months, waiting to resolve whatever cliffhanger the producers throw at us next week. I’ll freak out about it after the finale airs, same Bat-blog, same Bat-Channel.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It's A-Me, Mario!

Despite yesterday’s vow to stop talking about Nintendo- well technically, it was a vow to stop talking about the Wii, and I am not going to talk about that- I just have to talk about “New Super Mario Brothers” for the DS. It is Mario’s first side scrolling adventure since the Super Nintendo, and thus far, it’s awesome. I’ve played a bit of the main adventure game, and it's pure classic- Princess Peach is abducted by Bowser’s kids and taken to various castles, this time with funny funny little scenes in which the Bowser-spawn drag the princess between castles. So much for the new, empowered Princess that has her own game where she saves Mario (then again, she’s not that empowered- she does use the “power of her emotions” to save the day.) The game looks like it is just gonna be a barrel of fun, comparable to the wonderful “Super Mario Brothers 3,” which is probably the best game ever made, and I am not exaggerating.

The real treat of “New Super Mario Brothers” is the awesome Mario vs. Luigi two player mode. In this mode, you must collect five big stars as you travel across small level, trying to knock stars out of your opponents hands as you go. The game is so fun and manic, with sudden reversals that come out of nowhere- it’s basically a “Keystone Kops” comedy as a video game.

Damn you Nintendo- I feel like I'm buying ever title you publish for the DS. Damn you to hell for taking more of my valuable time again with another one of your wonderful toys. I’m trying to find time to be a writer here!

Bauer Watch: A Slap in the Face...of Justice

We start off our 24 report with the ever present SPOILER warning. So Jack Bauer might have to kill President Logan next week. It looks like it’s come to that after Miles the Weasel-boy erased the recording that implicates Logan in the death of David Palmer. (Damn, I want justice for Palmer's death as much as Jack does. In the season finale, when Palmer was assisnated, I will not lie- I yelled at the TV, exclaiming "Noooooo!" like Darth Vader at the end of the last crappy "Star Wars" movie.) When Weasle Boy's now-former boss, Karen Hayes confronted him- after Jack almost strangled the little asshole creep- I was just waiting to see if she was going to spit at or slap him. She went with slap. Then we get poor ol’ Aaron Pierce, the most loyal and badass of all Secret Service Agents, tied up with the evil president offering to let him go if he promises to turn a blind eye, and I just prayed Pierce would choose spitting- president or not. I was excited at the prospect of both a slap and spit in less than ten minutes time, but alas, Aaron opted for a calm, badass, and defiant speech about how it was his duty to bring the president to justice, knowing full well it would doom him. Except El Presidente’ Douchebag didn’t count on his own wife stepping in and killing the man who he ordered to murder Agent Pierce. The crazy first lady has balls, but anyone who watched "Designing Women" would know that- and I never have. And if the president’s cronies planning on killing everyone who knew about his dirty deeds wasn’t enough, the terrorists are back at it- and don't be surprised if it turns out the president was the one who helped them escape. Jack ends up taking Henderson with him to help find the terrorists- things are pretty well and good fucked up right now when you bring Robocop along for help. Overall, the terrorists being brought back in seems like a kind of desperate gambit on the part of the producers to give us a tenser finale- but we’ll see how it all plays out. The ad featuring Jack pointing the gun at the fucking president does imply that the final two hours of the season could be ridiculously exciting, or maybe just ridiculous. It remains to be seen if will it be as good as the end of “Lost” promises to be this year, with J.J. Abrams claiming will be the best season finale ever? We'll see who wins in this battle between the shows that I have created in my own head for my own enjoyment. I will be keeping score.

Monday, May 15, 2006

E3 Excellence

So, I am going to stop talking about E3 and the Wii, I swear. But I had to close out my E3 reports with this totally awesome image:

This meeting of the minds didn't last long- the creative energy in the room threatened to destroy California. The President ordered them apart after less than half an hour, no matter how much fun they were having playing the- get ready for it, last mention for awhile- Wii.

Belated Lost Watch: "Take Me to the Question Mark"

So E3 kinda delayed my post about the latest “Lost.” So sue me! I was in a three day haze of video games, and got to play the Wii. There is only so much blogging one man can do. This is not to say that I missed the episode- in fact, I had a friend from work over who is only caught up through the end of Season One and I made him hang out in my room while I watched with my girlfriend and my roommate,(as a way of saying I'm sorry, I'll give him another plug. If you want to see his awesome “Lost” caricatures, check out his "All My Heroes Have Day Jobs" blog.) Anyway, in honor of my friend, who probably had to cover his ears when we were yelling loudly at the TV, and for anybody else who is not caught up yet, I humbly offer this one and only SPOILER warning.

With that out of the way, it’s good to see that the show is really rolling now- y’know, with three hours left in the season. Last Wednesday, we got to see another Hatch- even though Locke has turned all emo on us. After Henry Gale’s creepy and cryptic announcement that he never entered the numbers, Locke’s been one moody guy. Even after sweet ol’ Rose gave him a little pep talk, assuring him that the Hatch still loves him, you just need to learn to love it for what it really is, Locke is still feeling morose. Too bad he can’t get any Cure albums out on the Island- all they have are those creepy, old-timey records in the Hatch.

We got to see another part of the “Orientation” film- this one on VHS, which was much easier than trying to string together the 16mm film that the previous installments were on. We learn that the “Swan,”(the first Hatch, and the one that will always be nearest and dearest to our hearts,) is under constant observation- by someone. Well, not exactly constant- when Locke and Mr. Ecco find “The Question Mark” hatch, it’s totally empty. But they can watch Jack running around, trying his best to be a good guy and help people (what a bore.) We learn that the people of “The Swan” are only led to believe that entering “The Numbers” is important, and that the observers in “The Question Mark” are supposed to- well observe them, and record all their actions- then send their recordings through one of those creepy old tubes that sucks documents up to- some unknown location. The video upsets Locke even further and makes him feel like a big fool, but it just makes Ecco seem more intent, telling Locke that this proves to him the work that is being done on the island is “more important than ever.” So Locke just feels like a lab rat while Ecco sees something deeper, saying that they must continue to enter the numbers.

Back in the aforementioned “Swan,” Ana Lucia is toast and Libby struggles for her life- poor, poor Hurley says goodbye to her, leaving us all a little choked up (I love Hurley, and I just want to see the boy happy.) Before she passes on, Libby is able to croak out Michael’s name- but instead of implicating him in the shooting, Jack just thinks she is asking if he made it out okay. So Michael gets away with killing the two tailies without scot-free- for now. Based on the promos, it looks like good ol’ Sayid has our boy Mikey pegged though. The question remains- what happened to him? Did The Others brainwash him? Or did they just blackmail him by threatening his son? What kind of trap are our heroes going to walk into next week?

That’s a lot of questions, and there are plenty more that the episode raised. With Libby’s death, we are also clearly never going to get an answer to a few more big ones- why was she in the same institution as Hurley? As with every episode, we get a few answers and even more questions. But I’ve got a good feeling that we will get some of the big questions answered before the season ends- if only to be left with a bigger list of head scratchers to debate for a whole summer until we start it all again in the Fall.

With the new “Lost” viral marketing game a few weeks in, everyone involved in the show has done a fantastic job of keeping us all intrigued. Let’s just hope these people actually do know where they are going with this whole thing and don’t blow it, “X-Files” style. I just hope it doesn’t turn out Sawyer is Jesus or something like that.

My theory for how “Lost” will end? Bob Newhart wakes up in bed, turns to his wife and says “honey, I had the strangest dream…"

Saturday, May 13, 2006

E3 and Introspection

So yesterday was the last day of E3 as well as the one-year anniversary of my graduation from college into “the real world.”

I had a great day at the convention center, which started with playing old arcade machines with classics I knew well- “Donkey Kong” and “Asteroids”- and bizarre old games I’d never heard of- “Pengo” anyone? After that, I waited in line for about an hour to see EA’s presentation for “Spore.” The level of imagination and innovation that is going into that game is pretty astounding. You will literally get to evolve your own society from nothing, designing your own species with an amazing creature editor created for the game. I’ve been hearing about the game for a couple years now, but seeing the demonstration was really pretty astounding- it was certainly one of the most inspiring things I saw during the three days at the conference. Uber-designer and “Spore” visionary Will Wright was there after the presentation let out, and I wish I had shook his hand to congratulate him and lament about how many hours of my life I am going to waste on his game whenever it finally comes out.

People like Wright and the folks at Nintendo are keeping hope alive for the video game industry. These people are the innovators who do not want to just sit back and make the same thing over and over again, who are not content with the idea that the “next generation” of their industry will just mean shinier graphics. These are the people who believe in the possibilities and promise of games, and they are what made E3 interesting.

I got to see a few more cool things at the conference as it wound down- “Dead Rising” is a game in which you must survive in a shopping mall full of zombies for 72 hours. The Romero inspired game looks like a blast, with a great sense of humor and some really gross zombie carnage. It might be the first game coming out for the 360 that I actually want to play. Speaking of the 360, I also played Rock Star Games’ entry into next gen consoles- “Table Tennis.” Seriously, the next game from the controversial creators of “Grand Theft Auto” made a table tennis game. I am still half convinced that the whole thing is an elaborate joke, that they made a playable demo of the game but they are actually going to tell us all we’ve been punk’d and that they are releasing a horribly violent game on the masses instead. Or maybe the game is just an excuse to hide a bunch of "Hot Coffee" features in which you get it on with hookers on a ping pong table.

That was really about it for the cool stuff at E3. I didn’t get to see any of “Gears of War,” which had a huge amount of buzz surrounding it. The first group of PS3 games are pretty to look at but uninteresting in every other way. The insane trailer for “Metal Gear Solid 4” was interesting, but there was nothing playable at E3. Overall, there was a little innovation, and a lot of the same old, same old. I hope Nintendo’s gamble with the Wii pays off big time and teaches the industry to try new things in the future.

I left the convention center and walked down Figueroa towards the USC campus. I decided to walk past the Shrine Auditorium, right as this year’s film school commencement ceremony was letting out. As I walked through a very different crowd of people than the throngs I had been pushing through at E3, I began to get melancholy and introspective. Here I was, exactly a year after graduation, and I was less than three weeks away from the end of my job at BVG. I had just walked out of the biggest showcase of the year for the industry I've been working in for eight months, and after talking to a few recruiters and finding out that most companies don’t hire writers, I was wondering if there was room for me in the world of video games. I still want to move into film and television, but it’s scary and hard to break into as well.

So I was a little depressed, and a little scared about the future. A year out of school and I still had no idea where I was going or if I was going anywhere. Which is why seeing the presentation for “Spore” meant so much to me yesterday. It proved that there still is a place for dreamers to dream big, and to make their visions come to life on a grand scale. I still want to be a part of something like that, even though I have no idea how to do it yet or what avenue to attack it at.

Amid my haze of confusion and introspection and exhaustion from three days of walking among sweaty geeks, I decided I had to go out and do something fun after too many weekends of staying in and watching too much bad TV. I went out to the coolest and most intimate nightclub in LA, the Largo, with my girlfriend and a couple friends from work. If you’ve never been there, check it out. There is almost always something amazing to see in the small venue that will make you feel better about life. Last night, we saw an amazing show featuring a gorgeous, intimate, and far too short set from The Eeels followed by a hilarious and off the cuff stand up performance from the brilliant Zach Galifianakis (in which he told us, to prove his indie-rock cred, he had had named his balls “Belle and Sebastian.”) I drank bad wine and good beer and had a great time seeing comedy and music with close friends. Life is big and scary and uncertain, but it’s worth it for nights like last night.

Friday, May 12, 2006

E3 Report

I’m two days into my first E3 and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. There is too much to talk about in just one post. There is a ton of money being thrown around by all these companies attempting to get geeks to part with their hard earned money.

I’m going to start with the most ridiculous. Vivendi is putting out a “Scarface” game, in which starts with the climactic scene from the movie. I know what you are thinking- doesn’t Pacino get killed at the end- like very, very killed. Well, in the game, you can survive the attack on the mansion- and must rebuild your empire. The game’s big innovation is that you build up “cajones” points- no seriously, I’m not kidding, “cajones” points. You get rewarded for having big balls. You gain these points by taunting opponents during fire fights, and if you build up your “cajones,” you go into blind rage mode, in which you are invincible, have unlimited ammo, and cannot miss your targets. Through the game, you kill rival gangs in order to rebuild your cocaine empire- the anti-game violence crusaders are going to have a field day with that one. But the Jack Thompsons of the world shouldn’t afford “Scarface” such publicity, because “Scarface” is a intensely retarded “Grand Theft Auto” rip-off. Clearly, the game’s creators would love nothing more than to generate the same kind of angered response that “GTA” has. To prove how much of a stir they wanted to create, Vivendi showed a promotional presentation for the game was given in a recreation of the mansion from the film- as good a metaphor for the extravagance of E3 that you will be able to find.

But it wasn’t all bad. “Okami” for the PS2 looked beautiful and innovative- the game looks like a moving painting, and it even has a cool paint brush game mechanic- you can paint bridges to cross or even use paint strokes in battle. The game looked beautiful and strange. “Dead Rising” looked like a blast- it’s basically “Dawn of the Dead” as a game- zombies invade a mall and you must survive for 72 hours. It looked hilarious and gross, a perfect combo, and it’s the kind of thing that is appealing enough to me to make me want an X-Box 360.

But this year, everything else pails in the shadow of Nintendo. Ladies and gentlemen of the world, I got to play with the Wii. I touched the Wii, and as Nintendo has taught us with the DS (oh, how I love you DS, how I adore you,) “touching is good.” I waited in line for nearly three hours to get into the Wii presentation and was able to play demos of a couple games. When I played a match of “Wii Sports: Tennis,” I began to swing the Wii-mote (yes, that is officially what Nintendo is calling it) as if I were swinging a real racquet. From my few minutes holding the Wii, I could imagine endless possibilities. It seems so intuitive and just plain fun- this is a video game system for everyone. The new name for the system sounded so silly at first- when I first read that it was the Wii, I wasn’t even sure how they meant us to pronounce it. But now it makes sense- the Wii is for all of we- for us, for everyone. The idea of the machine is to bring us all together- casual gamers, core gamers, and pre-Wii non-gamers alike- and for all of us to actually have fun with games again. That is Nintendo’s pitch, and even though it seems corny, it makes sense.

Maybe I’m an idiot who has just fallen for their marketing. Or maybe (and I don’t want to sound too optimistic) the Wii will solve all of the world’s problems.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bauer Watch: Jack's on a Plane

Spoiler warnings for all you people who missed last night's episode of "24" (and if you watch the show and did miss it shame on you. Honestly, watching "24" is always my highest priority. I would miss the birth of my first child if it came between me and my Bauer power hour.) So with that out of the way:

Holy shit Jack landed a jumbo jet on a freeway. And stopped it inches short of an overpass. This is the power of Bauer- when a trained commercial pilot tells him "we can't land a plane on this freeway. We're coming in too fast and there is not enough room to stop," Jack stares reality down until it blinks. He pulls through even the most insane situations through the sheer force of his iron will. There is no "impossible" when it comes to Jack Bauer. He's like a Nike ad come true.

After the plane gets on the ground, the episode slowed down to a crawl. Jack gets to reunite with Audrey, they have the recording, and everything seems to be coming to a conclusion. The president even looks like he is about to off himself, which would have not upset me in the least. This guy proves that the producers of "24" are conservative- because they give a good answer to the question "could you imagine a president worse than Bush?" Charles Logan seems like he crawled out of a toilet after Richard Nixon had a bad burrito. He's that loathsome.

Just when all looks lost for Logan, the little weasel from Homeland Security (how awesome is it that the Homeland guys are represented as such assholes?) calls the president and offers to "intervene" on his behalf. And after all the trouble Bauer went to to grab the recording, this schmuck ruins it with a damn magnet. I know there are three hours left in the season, but man, Jack's had it rough this season. I was half hoping that the last three episodes would have just been Jack and Audrey going to Disneyland or something. I know it wouldn't be that entertaining, but I just feel so bad for the guy at this point. But things are gonna get worse before they get better-Kim hasn't been kidnapped in a few years, and she's due.

There is still one more option though- Jack could always torture the recording until it works again.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Let me start this off by making a confession: I am a sucker for summer movies. By the time May rolls around every year, I am primed and ready for whatever ridiculous, overproduced, underwritten, high concept, CG fest Hollywood has to offer. Remake of The Poseidon Adventure? I'm there (tune in next week for an update on how that one goes.) X-Men sequel that will inevitably be disappointing because a director whose work I know I hate has been brought in to replace the guy who made the first two solid movies? I'll be there at midnight opening night. A "Miami Vice" movie? Just tell me when I can preorder tickets on Fandango and I'll be there. Hell, I'll probably end up seeing "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" in theatres. The point is, there is no movie that is too stupid, too loud, too poorly edited, too free of story to keep me away.

And it's not like I usually end up happy for doing this to myself- most of the time, I walk out of the theatre with an empty feeling. Maybe I see these movies because the promise of explosions still gets me excited (even though the actual explosions don't do it for me the way they once did.) But, just when I am ready to give up, there is that one great thrill ride that defines the entire summer for you forever. In 1993, it was "Jurassic Park," the single most important movie I have ever seen- it was the reason that I ended up going to film school. Every summer, there is that movie that reminds you why you see why you go to the movies in the first place, and reminds you how awesomely satisfying a good explosion can be. Last year it was the dark and totally badass "Batman Begins."

So after that long winded intro, I'll get to the point. Ladies and gentlemen, the first blockbuster of the season has rumbled into theatres. And I can say this with confidence- "Mission: Impossible 3" is not going to make anybody's summer unless you happen to be Tom Cruise. And judging from the early box office returns and the fact that he has a huge back end deal on the movie, even he is not going to be too pleased in the long run.

"M:I3" is about as stupid and annoying as movies like this can be. It's a loud, obnoxious, franticly edited mess that, in it's own defense, is a slight improvement over "M:I2." This movie is a pure and clear example of a superstar's ego run amok. Tom Cruise is living in his own fantasy world, and he has turned the movie into his own personal quest to show the world what a macho badass he is. Katie Holmes is apparently not enough of a beard*- he needs to outrun missiles to prove to us all just how much of a man's man he is. His exploits in the movie seem to have come from the head of a twelve year old who has had one too many cans of coke. Everything is big, loud, and intense- but isn't it supposed to be at least a little bit fun?
The two big disappointments on this one are JJ Abrams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I'll get to Hoffman first- casting him as the movie's villain was brilliant. The guy is far and away one of the best actors working today. But he just wasn't compelling at all. It's not his fault- somebody forgot to write a character for him. He is one of the most generic villains I've seen in awhile, and when he finally gets dispatched, it's intensely anticlimactic. Maybe if he had played the villain as Truman Capote, then that would have had something that would have at least amused me.

As for JJ- I am a huge "Lost" fan. Coming off the first amazing season of that show, I was ready to be blown away by what JJ could do with a bigger budget and cooler toys. But he wasn't able to make the leap from the small to the big screen gracefully- he tries hard to inject some emotion into the movie by adding a romantic subplot, but it falls distressingly flat. He never figures out how to make us care about the central relationship in the context of a two hour movie, and that's a problem- because all of Cruise's actions are motivated by the love for his wife. He steals a weapon of mass destruction and delivers it to the bad guy- just to save her. And his friends help him. WTF? There is really no flow to the story- or whatever story there is to speak of. But, like Hoffman, I can't really say I blame JJ for failing this mission- see you thought I wasn't gonna make one of those lame play on words like every other review of the movie has. I really showed you, huh? But really, it's not JJ's fault (and I'm not saying that just because I'd kill for a job on "Lost" and I am trying to cover my ass. Really, I'm not.)

The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Cruise. I have never seen a movie that is a more blatant example of an out of control ego in my life. This is Tom Cruise's self indulgent love letter to himself. It's the cinematic equivalent of watching Cruise talk to himself in a mirror, performing shirtless karate poses, crying, and masturbating vigorously while yelling that "Everyone loves me so fucking much! I am so straight and America's women love me! I am such a badass man's man, I am so in shape, and I know everyone thinks I'm great! Psychiatry is bad!" After his bizarre year of jumping on Oprah's couch, calling Matt Lauer "glib," hiding Katie Holmes away for her entire pregnancy, purchasing an ultra sound machine (by the way, what is he gonna do with that now that the baby has been born? Is he selling it on E-Bay?) and telling the world about how he was going to eat the placenta, it's just surreal to try and watch him play a character in this movie. Just like in most of his movies, he is incapable of making us believe he is anybody but Tom Cruise, and that's a problem for an actor. He runs like a madman, he cries, he jumps from one of the tallest buildings in the world, and he does it all with that patented Tom Cruise intensity. It's simply exhausting watching him try to will us into loving him as much as he loves himself.

*So I've gotten a lot of people asking me what a "beard" is. Basically, it's everything that you probably think Ms. Holmes is to Mr. Cruise (classy New York Times style name dropping, huh?) I think you people are clever enough to read between the lines*.

*And if you can't read between the lines- Tom Cruise is totally gay, dude. And everyone, himself most of all, should just get over it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Poppin' My Blog Cherry

So I'm starting one of these "web logs," popularly known as "Blogs"(for definition, check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog.) I'm going to use this forum to basically express any BS I may want to express to the rest of the world; y'know what I thought of the previous night's episode of "24" or "Lost," musings on the latest movies, useless opinions on new video games, and pretentious observations about new music. Oh yeah, maybe I'll occasionally present largely uninformed and liberally biased political rants. Overall, I think I'll be filling a void that the internet sorely needs filled- it's just so hard to find anybody expressing any sort of opinions on pop culture or politics out in the old blogosphere. We're gonna break new ground here, people.

As a final note, I apolgize in advance for any spelling mistakes. There will be many.